If data science is the human body, Statistics is heart of the body. – Madhukar Kumar

Interview with Madhukar Kumar

Madhukar Kumar

Chief Analytics Officer, AI Evangelist, Speaker, Blogger, Marathoner
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Q1. Please share your inspirational journey with us?

I am Madhukar Kumar & currently working as Chief Analytics Officer at HT Media & have overall ~15 years of experience in artificial intelligence, data sciences, predictive analytics, machine learning, deep learning, text analytics, image/video analytics and consulting across a multitude of both global clients and verticals. I have previously worked with firms like American Express, GE Money & WNS. I have been conferred “Lifetime distinguished membership” of the Leaders Excellence @ Harvard Square group (an exclusive online leadership community, headquartered at Massachusetts,US) and also am a certified Advanced Analytics expert with Experfy, Harvard innovation launch lab, Boston.

I was featured twice as one of the CDOs in the news globally by CDO Club New York in Jan 2020 & Jun 2020, I was also awarded “AI Leader of the year” award in International Business and Academic Excellence Awards (IBAE-2019) in Dubai by GISR Foundation & American college of Dubai. My work on image analytics was well received in the industry. “The Drone image Analytics” solution was judged as one of the Top 50 applications of AI and was awarded Nasscom AI game changer 2018 award. Also, It won “Stevie Gold award-2018” under “Best product/service of the year” category in London. I was also rated as one of the Top 4 Data scientists from India by an Australian Advisory firm for significant contribution in science & Technology for Australian firms in 2015.

I have completed Masters in Applied Statistics & Informatics from IIT Bombay. I also have keen interest in Academics and have taught 350+ hours of data science, AI & ML to 1000+ professionals across the globe. I am also an advisor for setting up data science center at IISER, Mohali. I am a well-known Keynote Speaker & Moderator in AI & Data science conferences & also a member of organizing committee of Gavin conferences for AI & Robotics conferences events across the globe. 

I am also a passionate athlete and have completed 1 Full Marathon(42k), 6 half marathons(21k), 1 Olympic triathlon (1.5k swimming, 40k cycling & 10k running), 1 duathlon (21k running & 90k cycling), 4century(100k+) rides, Sky Diving & Scuba diving. I am currently preparing for Ultra run (50k+) & Ironman 70.3(1.8k swimming, 90k cycling & 21k running).

Q2. What did attract you towards Statistics?

To be very honest, Statistics happened by chance. I always loved mathematics since my childhood and was good at it. Somehow, I tried hard but couldn’t crack IIT JEE. So, I chose Mathematics as my undergrad subject and completed my B.Sc. from Hindu College, Delhi University. But pure mathematics courses didn’t excite me. Thankfully, I appeared for IIT JAM and got AIR 34. A good rank in IIT JAM provided me options to choose course from various IITs, While all IITs were offering M.Sc. in Mathematics, IIT Bombay was also offering M.Sc. in “Applied statistics & informatics”. I loved the name of the course very much J & without much thinking, I opted for this course. It also turned out to be one of my best decisions. Honestly speaking, I still love it and feel very proud to have done this course.

Q3. You did M.Sc. in Applied Statistics & informatics from IIT, Bombay. Does a good hands on Statistics would be more helpful to become a good Data Scientist?

Definitely!! If data science is the human body, Statistics is heart of the body. I don’t know how this notion has come in the market that you can excel in data science without learning statistics. That’s not true. You can’t be a good data scientist if you don’t understand the statistics behind the algorithms. You would be clueless if your algorithm is not performing as per expectation and you don’t understand the statistics & theory behind the algorithm. You can only fix it if you know the statistics & theory behind the algorithms.

Q4. How do you handle stress in this fast and competitive life?

The best way to handle stress is not to take it at the first place. The more you keep yourself calm & relaxed in extreme conditions, the better you will be able to handle the complex situation.

I still remember how I used to take stress during school exams & entrance tests, But that didn’t give the desired results. Once I started doing my graduation, I also started training myself not to take stress in extreme pressure conditions. It has done wonders for me. Now, I don’t recall when was the last time I took stress in past 15-16 years. So, in my opinion, there is always a better way of solving the problem without taking unnecessary stress.

Q5. How do you see AI and Data Science Domain as a job producer in next 10 years?

AI & data science are tools to solve the business problems, Earlier problems were simple and that’s why standard & traditional statistical techniques were able to solve various business problems. But now data is getting bigger & bigger and problems are becoming more complex with each passing day, There is no way we would be able to solve these problems without AI & data science. So, in my view, demand for professionals, who can efficiently use various algorithms to solve business problems, is only going to increase in future.

Q6. You are a Chief Analytics Officer, Blogger, Athlete, Educator & Speaker. How do you play multiple roles simultaneously in your life?

Agreed. It’s not easy to wear multiple hats and do justice to all of them. You need to follow a disciplined approach and do it smartly. Each activity is a fulltime job in itself. But Let me explain how I manage it very easily.

Chief Analytics Officer is a very tough & demanding role in any organization nowadays, but as I had been doing Analytics since my first job and it’s almost 15 years, So Analytics is in my blood now -J it’s my comfort zone. I love solving business problems through use of analytics and that’s what my role is. So, I am enjoying my CAO role. As far as, Blogging, speaking & teaching is concerned; It’s mostly on data science topics. So, That’s not very difficult as I am doing data science day in day out in my role and job experience. But Yes, One thing I agree, teaching is not easy as it’s an art and not a science. Somehow, I feel blessed to have that art.

Now let’s talk about the most difficult role – athlete, I was never into sports since my childhood and was mostly into studies. One day, My wife bought weighing machine in jan 2019 and I checked my weight & it was 90 kg and I was shocked. I decided to start running and becoming fit. Slowly, things getting added up and I turned into a full athlete in a year. I completed 5 half marathons & 1 Olympic triathlon (1.5k swimming, 40k cycling & 10k running) in 2019. What I realized over the period of time, it not only helped me becoming fitter, but also helped me becoming more focused and productive in my role as CAO. If you have run 5-10 km in the morning, you are extremely focused and highly productive throughout the day.

So, All my multiple roles are in a way complementing and helping each other.

Q7. You have both online teaching and corporate job experience in your long span of career. Which one do you like most and why?

I like both – Teaching & my corporate job. But If I have to pick one, It would be my corporate job experience as it gives me opportunity to solve real life complex business problems through use of AI & data science.

Q8. You are a passionate athlete and have completed many marathons. What makes you passionate about it?

Running marathons is one of the best things I had ever done. When I started, it was mostly for fitness and weight reduction, But now it has turned into one of my biggest passions. Your body has infinite potential. If you have not tested your physical and mental strength, You would never be able to unlock your true potential.

The feeling that you get after finishing a good run is unexplainable in words. I still remember, I literally cried after finishing my first full marathon (42k) in Feb 2020. I also cried when I couldn’t finish 150k cyclothon, I had to quit after 125km as my tyre was punctured thrice and I didn’t have 3rd spare tube. When I was doing my Olympic triathlon, I got panic attack after 4th lap in swimming and I had to do 30 laps, then 40k cycling and 10k running. But even panic attack couldn’t force me to quit and I successfully finished Olympic triathlon in ~ 6 hours. I was doing duathlon (21k running & 90k cycling) in Oct 2020, I didn’t stop cycling at 90k but continued till I crossed 125k as I needed to put my cyclothon failure behind.

I am by nature a passionate person. Either I do it or I don’t do it. I don’t do things half-heartedly. I have become athlete by choice and not by compulsion. What you get out of it is a positive mind and fit body, what else you need. That’s the reason why I am passionate about it.